SO FEW YEARS AND SO MUCH HAPPENED
In the year of 1937, the boy was born in the South East of London, England. At that time, whilst not being in any way an affluent area, it was mainly populated by people who managed to live fairly comfortably. The adults had work and the children went to school. The boy started his life in a large block of several blocks of flats, which all had pretentious sounding names, of people possibly once famous and now very much forgotten. These large blocks of flats, were called by their inhabitants "The Flats" and that is how they were always referred to, whenever it was necessary for them to give their place of residence.
As a construction of this nature in that period, they were quite impressive, with space for the children to play, fight and do what children did in those days to amuse themselves. One drawback of "The Flats" was that they were close, in fact very close, to a main and busy railway line. However, this inconvenience appeared only to bother, or affect visitors or passing strangers to the area. For the children, it was a source of entertainment and sometimes a welcome distraction.
When the boy was two years old, it was announced that Great Britain was now at war with Germany. As this war was at that time being fought on the other side of the English Channel, people in "The Flats", were at first, inclined to look upon it as something that was not really part of their lives. Of course at that stage, the boy was still getting into the habit of being a child.
Everything changed for the "The Flats" people during the latter part of 1940. Whereas the German Luftwaffe had been targeting British airfields and other military targets, they now turned their attention towards the civilian population of England. Swarm after swarm of German bombers, dropped their deadly loads onto London and other major cities, in an attempt to force the country into submission. The frequent wailing of the air raid sirens announced that the London Blitz was underway and the Battle of Britain had begun!
For the boy, it was the beginning of a time that would remain with him for the rest of his life. At the time, it was a fascinating and exciting experience. The heavy droning of the aircraft as they flew overhead and the distinctive sound of the British artillery, as they retaliated. The flashes of exploding shells lit up the sky like a giant Guy Fawkes display. Whilst the detonating bombs on the ground, turned the surrounding areas into an exciting and dazzling display of a hell on earth, with consequences that the boy could not be aware of.
In attempts to afford some protection for "The Flats" people from the bombing raids, buildings called air raid shelters were erected. For the boy and his friends, these were ideal hiding places and playrooms, with the double bunks fitted along the walls, ready made for climbing and playing a variety of action games.
With the advent of the introduction by the Germans, of their V1 rocket propelled missile, the boy and his friends were given a new form of entertainment from the sky. If playing outdoors and hearing the warning of the air raid sirens, they listened for the distinctive sound of the V1. It was a painted black and looked like a small aircraft, with clean cut, symmetrical features. It was named the "Buzz Bomb" or "Flying Bomb" and on the tail section, there was mounted the cylindrical type propulsion unit. Just prior to plunging from the sky onto a target, the noise stopped!
The distinctive noise of the "Buzz Bomb" gave a warning of its approach and if playing outdoors, was listened to by the boy and his friends with increasing anticipation as it got ever closer. They were aware that when the noise stopped, it was the signal for a very large explosion. Again, the dreadful consequences of this action were not realized by the children and they argued about the whereabouts of the explosion. Standing in the road, looking frantically for the "Buzz Bomb" in the sky, they heard the continuous shouting of their parents, urging them into the air raid shelters.
Being "veterans" of a war they knew nothing about and in reality, had always been a part of their lives, they gave no thought to any potential danger. "The Flats" all had a balcony, from which the residents were able to watch the trains and the outside world go by. They also provided excellent viewing of the battles being fought in the sky above. This entertainment took a sinister turn, when the Germans started sending over their new missile, the V2. There was now no familiar sound, which stopped and warned of the explosion to come. All that was heard was the sound of a huge explosion as it detonated at the end of its fall from the sky.
Reality came suddenly and shockingly to the boy! On the way to visit a friend at his house, to find out why he had not been at school that day, he saw road signs and firemen. Going towards the house he was stopped by a man in uniform and told he could not go any further. The reason became obvious as he looked along the road and only saw the rubble of houses, that only a short while ago had been homes.
It was now decided that the boy with other children, would have to leave London! The adults were told to organize their children and take them to railway stations for transportation to their "new homes". Where and with whom he would stay, the boy did not know. He was given his case and a label was pinned to the collar of his coat, with all sorts of details on it. His Mother was taking him to the station, but the boy did not understand why he was being sent away? Why were his friends also going away, but to different places? This was his first time away from home and it was not a pleasant experience!
At the train station the boy stood on the platform, with it seemed, hundreds of other children. They were all different shapes, look and size, but strangely, all looking the same. The name given to them was "Evacuees" and they were now being taught a consequence of the war. The main thought in the boy's mind, was why? He saw nothing extraordinary in bombs falling, exploding, houses being demolished and waiting for "Buzz Bombs" to explode. This was all part of life, wasn't it? Anyway, where were all these Germans they kept talking about? There were many other questions the boy had, which no one could or would answer.
At last the goodbyes were said and the boy with the other "Evacuees" began their journey on a strange and unknown adventure. The boy had been told that the carriages of the train separated at certain locations and the section he was in was going to Scotland. He had heard of it, but knew nothing about it or the people he was going to stay with. What was so different about Scotland?
The journey was a long one and as the boy was taken further away from London, so did his anxiety grow. His short life ran through his mind and although he had been told so many times, that this was for his own good and it would be safer and best for him, but why? Food parcels had been given out to all the children and they guarded these as if their lives depended upon them. Friends were made, but the "Evacuees" knew, that everything at this moment would not last, but at least they had some comfort from each other.
The train stopped at different places. Carriages were detached and reattached to engines and went in other directions. Children got off at other stations along the way and slowly the journey dragged on to its eventual conclusion at a small town in Scotland! By now, the number of "Evacuees" travelling with the boy had decreased dramatically and only a few had remained to this final stop. Many goodbyes had been said and the friendships made during the journey, were broken with a sense of sadness, but mainly without too much regret. The boy, like the others, was too concerned about what was going to happen to him now?
The train eventually reached its destination and for the boy, another episode in his short life was about to begin. As he disembarked from the train, the first thing that drew his attention was the silence of the night and the feeling of fresh air on his face. There were a few people on the station, talking in quiet tones with strange sounding accents. The boy was approached by two adults who read the label on his collar and then introduced themselves to him as Mr. and Mrs. McIntyre. They were pleasant enough, but he found difficulty in understanding them. With one last look back at the other evacuees, he was taken outside the station and placed in a car and another journey started, to another unknown destination.
During the journey, the McIntyres' told him that he would be living with them for a time, and that they had a farm in a place called Berwick. They asked questions about his life in general, which drew from him guarded responses. Who were these people? What did they mean about living with them and for how long was he going to be kept in this strange place? He felt like crying, which in all honesty was a feeling that had been with him for some time. But boys from "The Flats" just didn't do that sort of thing, did they? When there was no talking in the car, all that could be heard was the sound of the engine. There was no illumination of any description outside the vehicle, except for the twin beams of light from the headlights. It was like driving on a bumpy road, through one long tunnel.
The car came to a standstill outside a house, with a light shining from it and the boy without thinking said, they had better turn that light off, because they were breaking the "Blackout" laws! The McIntyres' became very quiet for a moment and then the man turned to him and in a quiet voice, told him that in this part of the country, they did not need blackout, because the Germans didn't come here. A woman had come from the house and she opened the door for him. He got out of the car and stood still, like an animal testing its surroundings, struck by the stillness around him. He could see the shapes of trees and bushes and in the sky, stars that lit up like a million gun's shells.
With his suitcase, he was taken into the house and upstairs to a small but comfortable room. He was told this was his room and supper was waiting downstairs. Suddenly and for no apparent reason, an unfamiliar and unpleasant feeling came into the boy. Something was missing and his surroundings, whilst pleasant, were foreign and strange to him. The McIntyres' were kind and seemed friendly, but they also were different, to the people he had grown up with. The boy could not explain these feelings himself, as he had never had cause to experience them before. Most people could have told him, that he had a severe case of "homesickness"!
As the days passed, the boy grew into his new surroundings, became familiar with them and the few people he met. He worked about the farm and mostly accepted his situation. Many times he missed his parents and friends, but thrust any sadness and emotional responses from him. Admittedly, now and then his eyes would water at some memory that came to him, but was quickly put out of his mind. They had sent him away and put him here in this strange land. Well he would show them that he was fine by himself. He was angry, but he couldn't understand why!
Weeks turned into months and the boy got used to the peace of the Scottish countryside and the mountains that surrounded the farm. He kept to himself and felt most comfortable walking the fields and exploring the wooded hills. It became familiar to him and he found secluded spots that became like old and trusted friends.
One day the McIntyres' said they wished to talk to him. Mrs. McIntyre solemnly told him that the war had ended and he was going home to his parents. Although it was only just over one year since he had arrived at the farm, to the boy it seemed like an eternity. These quiet, friendly people, this beautiful peaceful land, with its countryside, woods, hills and mountains, had reached out to him and unsuspectingly had become a part of him.
The boy then started to shed tears! They released emotions that had been held and stored for many months. From the first shock, when he was taken away from his beloved London as an evacuee and the train journey that had sometimes felt like a nightmare. Mainly though, it was the fact he was now being sent away from a place that had become another home to him. Here, he had found another world that he had related to in an unimaginable way. He would not have understood it then, but the boy from London had found the healing powers and the wonders of nature and discovered the true quality of life and people.